Studio Spotlight is where I check out a particular studio’s movies and show my top 5 favorite among them. For this particular series, I would be spotlighting two studios I’m quite fond of which is Pixar Studios and Studio Ghibli.
Today the spotlight goes to Pixar, one of the most well-known animation studios out there. Pixar is somewhat close to my childhood (and adulthood) and like many kids, grew up following almost all of the films.
Pixar has a wide variety of films in their library and almost all of it have met critical acclaim. They have a distinct and engaging story to tell and almost always have tons of heartfelt and endearing characters. Pixar films have a great ability to touch that emotional note whether you are a kid or an adult, and this is something that the other 3D animation studios have a difficulty of replicating. Picking my top 5 is also quite difficult since the quality of each film are meticulously done. But, there are still some that resonated with me more than the others.
5) Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo is a personal favorite of mine. I’ve watched this countless of times in different points of my life. I watched it when I was an elementary, high school, and college student, and it always felt fresh and endearing to me. One of the great things about Finding Nemo, aside from great visuals and characters are its environmental commentaries. It shows the harm begin done by humans, from polluting waters, from us “caging” animals that are meant to be free out in the open, and even the results of our war machines (those mines underwater). This subtle devices runs great with the basic concept of Finding Nemo…family.
It shows the dedication and determination of a father to find his son. It shows the bond of friendship, to the point of overcoming memory loss. But also shows the story of an overeager child wanting to be free–him eventually being in an alien environment, getting confused, but eventually learns to pick himself up. I like it for its exploration that growing up is not just for kids.
Despite the ridiculousness of a flying house using balloons, Up has one of the strongest opening scenes ever. It’s opening that lasts for a couple of minutes gives us a view on the married life of Carl and Ellie. From the ups and downs of their marriage, that eventually culminates to Ellie’s death due to old age. SAY WHAT? Yes, what Up got me hooked (and crying) is this portrayal of reality. It is sweet but it is also poignant and sends a message to viewers. We have to accept that time moves on, no matter how sad, no matter how much depressing it is, and even if we lose someone. But it is not pessimistic, instead, Up tells us that death isn’t the end of it all. That there still lies an adventure where our hopes and dreams can flourish. And that’s just, like, 10 minutes in to the movie.
Up may have little stretches where it comes off as boring, but it still has a great deal of character development and action from the other characters. We get to see how Carl resolves not only his dreams, but also his relationship with the adorable Russell. This unstoppable pursuit of dreams is a recurring theme in the whole movie, not only for Carl, but for Charles Muntz; who was Carl’s idol growing up. Muntz reflects our obsessive compulsive pursuit of our dreams and our desire to ultimately get recognition. The movie tells us the differing sides of the coin in accomplishing our personal desires–it asks us how and in what lengths do we chase our dreams. Which is one great question, considering this movie is built on the premise of a flying house using balloons.
One reason I like Ratatouille is because I love food…and wow is this movie full of mouth-watering and appetizing ones. Despite the gross concept of a rat actually touching or cooking food, I’d rather have Anton Ego explain the sentiments of this movie:
“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new: an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto, ‘Anyone can cook’ But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist can come from anywhere.”
Ratatouille, like Up, is about our self-realization of our dreams. A great artist can come from anywhere. Irregardless of race, religion, gender, or age, if you put yourself up to it, if you work hard and persevere, it is possible to accomplish it. In the grand scheme of things, our critics and detractors are just a minor piece of pie. Like Anton said, it is often hard to be break the surface and express our piece. But it always depends on our determination, and if you are determined, eventually it goes to show that even your critics would be those who would appreciate your work. Ratatouille showed this message, along with amazing visuals and that easy-to-the-ears French musical composition.
As much as I am a fan of sci-fi, I’m also a huge geek for post-apocalyptic stuff. Wall-E hits the right note for me featuring two of my most favorite genres, but also adds a unique and interesting twist. Our characters are not humans. Sure, we had lots of Pixar films that had animals in it so there isn’t any differences, right? But Wall-E does this without the aid of human speech. We are relegated to beeping sounds, to specific movement tics, to expressions, and to their actions. It trumps the storytelling part by showing and not telling. No long-winded narratives or dialogues, just communication via the body. Wall-E shows that action indeed speaks louder than words.
Despite its cheery robotic cuteness, Wall-E overshadows a bleak world. Our planet is dead–no animals, plants, or humans. It tells us the darker story that somehow, because of human greed, we have not only made an entire species go extinct, but also a whole planet. But the humans did escape, right? Yes, they did. But, it is also obvious that not everybody was able to afford to go to space and to the comfortable confines of Axiom, the massive human spaceship far far away from Earth. It leaves to imagination what exactly happened to the humans that were left in Earth, a dead planet.
But most of all, Wall-E tells us of an uncertain hope, despite the ending. Does the humans, who finally found their way home after long years, pick themselves up? Or does stagnancy, the over-reliance to technology, and being physically unfit doom them on Earth. The ending makes me think of the pessimistic route, despite the shows tone. This is why I like Wall-E, it has a mature tone to it and real-life social commentaries from consumerism, to corporation greed, and our affinity for technology.
1) Toy Story 3
For me, however, nothing beats a story that actually grows up with you. Toy Story is a movie a lot of people would relate to, since almost every one of us had an experience spending our childhoods playing with toys. What Toy Story 3 does is bank on that particular nostalgia and brings a bittersweet closure to our lovely main characters. I can’t help feeling bad, too. Like Andy, I was very fond of playing, but eventually I had to grow up. Most of my toys were inherited by my siblings, some were given to cousins, and most were donated. By the time I was in college, about 90% of my original toys were gone. It made me sad since I held special attachments to those–I still remember and wish to relive those carefree days of running around and role-playing with toys. But Toy Story 3 shows us that we have to move on with the next chapter of our lives.
It is eventually inevitable that we would leave something behind, no matter how much we do not want to part with it. That’s how I felt when we first moved and parted with our old house. That’s how I felt when I eventually had to go to college. For most of us who watched Toy Story 3, we saw ourselves in the shoes of Andy.
But most of all, this is also the story of Woody, Buzz, and friends. They endured their own losses and also had to come in to terms of letting go. With Andy growing up, they have to accept and face the new chapters of their lives. This is the driving point of Toy Story 3…the art of letting go. It shows us how hard this is–even painful perhaps, but it also shows us that it is also necessary for our growth. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but that is reality. We eventually realize that in the end, those little moments have become our most cherished memories.
Toy Story 3 accomplishes in pulling my heart string and closing the chapter for Andy, the toys, and the franchise itself. It was a great closure! It was critically acclaimed with a score of 99% positive reviews. That tells something about this movie.
*Anyway, that’s my list! Thanks for reading this long-winded post. I got too much immersed in to it. Next up is my top 5 Ghibli films.
*Parting questions, what are your top 5 Pixar films? Do share it up!